Some tips for choosing how you collect measures

There are many different ways routine outcome measures can be administered and collected, e.g. with pen and paper, using a tablet, by phone, post, in the waiting room prior to a session, with the clinician in a session, etc…

Broadly these can be grouped under two headings:

    • Interviewer-led: measures are filled out with the support of someone else, e.g. the clinician
    • Self-administered: measures are filled out by the child/young person and/or their family independently and without guidance, e.g. in the waiting room before a session

The way in which the forms are collected can potentially affect the answers provided. In the table below, you can find some of the aspects identified by research that might be worth considering when collecting and interpreting routine outcome measures data.

Aspects worth considering Interviewer-led Self-administered
How motivated will the CYP be to fill in the forms? The interviewer can motivate the CYP to fill in the questionnaire accurately, for example by offering prompts and answering any questions the CYP may have It may be difficult for the CYP to feel motivated to respond, as there is less chance for development of rapport between the interviewer and the CYP, especially if the form is collected at the beginning of contact with the service
How complete will CYP's responses be? The interviewer can help ensure questions are not left unanswered, for example by going over each question It’s more likely that questions may be missed, for example by accident or because they are not understood
How genuine will CYP’s responses be? The interviewer reading the questions aloud is one of the least cognitively demanding ways of collecting measures for the CYP Visualising the questions on paper can help add meaning to them (especially if there is a scale) and there is some evidence that responses to questions on a written scale tend to be less extreme
How useful will the measures seem? The interviewer can convey the importance of collecting the measures and explain the potential gains and usefulness for both the individual and the service as a whole It may not be clear for the CYP how important or useful the measures are and therefore their responses may not be as thoughtful
Note: ‘CYP’ is used here generically to indicate children, young people and families who might fill in the forms as part of their contact with a child and adolescent mental health service.
‘Interviewer’ is used here generically to indicate clinicians, practitioners, assistant psychologists, research assistants, or any other individuals who support the CYP to fill in the forms.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both ways of collecting information from measures – what the table above suggests is that it’s important to:

  • hold these aspects in mind when interpreting the scores of a child or young person you’re seeing
  • consider what’s best to do at the service level but also with the individual child or young person
  • try to stick with one method of collection if possible, to minimise variation
  • always remember that, no matter what way of collection you choose, the forms are only effective if the information in them is brought back into the therapy session and used meaningfully to inform the treatment and the experience of children, young people and families within the service.

How are you currently collecting information from measures and how will you take the information presented here into consideration? Feel free to share your thoughts on this with your team to discuss.

References and further reading

Bowling, A. (2005). Mode of questionnaire administration can have serious effects on data quality. Journal of Public Health, 27(3), 281-291

Christensen, A. I., Ekholm, O., Glumer, C., & Juel, K. (2014). Effect of survey mode on response patterns: Comparison of face-to-face and self-administered modes in health surveys. European Journal of Public Health, 24(2), 327-332

Cook, C. (2010). Mode of administration bias. Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, 18(2), 61-63.

Law, D. & Wolpert, M. (Eds.)(2014). Guide to Using Outcomes and Feedback Tools with Children, Young People and Families. London: CAMHS Press

Norman, R., King, M. T., Clarke, D., Viney, R., Cronin, P., & Street, D. (2010). Does mode of administration matter? Comparison of online and face-to-face administration of a time trade-off task. Quality of Life Research, 19, 499-508

Patalay, P., Hayes, D., Deighton, J., & Wolpert, M. (2015). A comparison of paper and computer administered Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, published online August 2015.

Tipping, S., Hope, S., Pickering, K., et al. (2010). The effect of mode and context on survey results: analysis of data from the Health Survey for England 2006 and the Boost Survey for London. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 10, 84.

Weinberger, M., Oddone, E. Z., Samsa, G. P., & Landsman, P. B. (1996). Are health related quality-of-life measures affected by the mode of administration? Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 49(2), 135-140